Rights report warns of judicial independence threat, welcomes abortion law

Report criticizes “hostile rhetoric against the judiciary and prosecutors” from Fernández and CFK

International rights nonprofit Human Rights Watch warned in the Argentina chapter of its annual report, published today, that the country was facing threats to judicial independence. However, it praised the country’s flagship abortion legislation at a time of reversals on reproductive rights in the US.

The report’s authors stated that “high-level authorities have used hostile rhetoric against judges and prosecutors,” citing Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s broadsides against the judiciary during the Vialidad corruption trial.

The rights watchdog added that the long-term use of temporary judges threatened judicial independence, while a bill to expand the Supreme Court, which has yet to be debated in the lower house, could be used to pack the court. It also urged congress to appoint a human rights ombudsperson – the role has been empty since 2009.

With regard to the assassination attempt against Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in September, it limited itself to observing that the investigation “was ongoing at the time of writing”. It did not address the Lago Escondido controversy, which emerged after the report was written.

Overall, the report added, Argentina’s economic woes and political polarization – known as la grieta, or the crack – had fostered a political crisis that made it hard to drive the rights agenda forwards.

However, the report highlighted Argentina’s 2020 legalization of abortion and Latin America’s “green wave” as a “compelling counternarrative” to the US Supreme Court’s overturning of federal protections for abortion. Ongoing obstacles to accessing abortions in Argentina include access for women with disabilities, as well as delays and lack of information.

The watchdog highlights a number of long-term rights problems. Indigenous people “face obstacles to accessing justice, land, education, health care, and basic services” as well as delays to legal protections, while prison abuse remains common. The authors highlight the case of Daiana Abregú, a 26-year-old woman who died in a police station in Buenos Aires province in June 2022. Five police officers were arrested for allegedly killing her and portraying her death as a suicide.
Finally, the report mentions the situation of economic rights in the country is worsening. “More than half of children under 14 were living in poverty and more than one in ten in extreme poverty,” it says.

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